CSA Week 16

We may not have onions this year, but our garlic is abundant, and so are the beets! And we’re rolling in green beans.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Carrots
• Snap Beans (Green or Yellow)
• Baby Lettuces
• Summer Squashes
• Lemon Cucumbers or various Greens
• Basil
• Beets
• Garlic

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Tomatoes, Shelling Beans, Peppers

SAVE THE DATE: Farm Potluck and Garlic Cleaning Work Party: August 27th

The final fall crops are going in the ground this week, and we are hustling! These last plantings will get us through the end of the year, plus a bit beyond. We’re also planning some surprise crops in the greenhouses. Fingers crossed!

Spinach is fickle in the summer. It refuses to germinate if the soil is over 70 degrees, and it will bolt (go to flower) if the temperature stays too hot for too long. But we just keep on trying…

We are moving next Tuesday’s deliveries and farm pickup to Wednesday, so that we can go south a bit and experience the eclipse. We’ll be back Monday night, but we’ll still need a day to harvest. Please mark your calendars! Weekend pickups will remain the same.

The first day of sky after the wildfire smoke cleared. What a relief!

We have several plantings of green beans coming on strong, with the final planting today. This last planting will (hopefully) mature in early October, and it IS a gamble crop. But sometimes we have beautiful weather in October, and if that happens, we’ll have lots of beans!

Beautiful green beans. I just sauté them in a little butter until they turn bright green. So delicious!

With all the challenges this season, the late rains, my injury, and then a hot, dry spell, our u-pick garden has suffered. There are some zinnias, cherry tomatoes, and there will be pumpkins. The gladiolas and dahlias are up, but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll grow enough to bloom, but you never know. We’re really glad the wildfire smoke has cleared and we have fresh air, plus a bit of drizzle. Bring on the fall!

CSA Week 12

So much vitality here! Dense lettuces, hearty greens, Persian cucumbers, carrots, fava beans, garlic, and heavenly herbs!

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Carrots
• Fava Beans
• Big Baby Lettuce x 2
• Persian Cucumbers
• Greens (Kale, Chard, Purslane, others)
• Cilantro
• Garlic

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Green Beans, Basil, Beets

SAVE THE DATE: Farm Potluck and Garlic Cleaning Work Party: July 29

Shades of green: lettuce, lemon basil, and marjoram.

Summer arrived, and everything started growing! We are where we should have been a month ago, but we’re just glad to have things to harvest!

The first golden orbs didn’t last long. So many are on the way: brace yourselves.

I apologize for the lack of posts over the last few weeks. We’ve been busy planting and harvesting, and taking day trips with the kids. It’s been wonderful.

Basil. Is. Coming. Almost big enough…

We’ve been able to get a lot of extra winter crops going, so our plan is to extend the CSA into January, to make up for the month we lost to the rainy spring. No net loss of food investment. Yay!

CSA Week 7

Lovely treats for our return to CSA: Baby Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, Green Shallots, Napa Cabbage, Fresh Thyme, and Rhubarb.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Carrots
• Green Shallots (use like a spring onion, or a green onion)
• Sugar Snap Peas (eat the whole thing)
• Rhubarb
• Napa Cabbage (great as a salad or coleslaw, or stir-fried)
• Fresh Thyme

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Garlic Scapes, Green Garlic, Shelling Peas, New Potatoes

SAVE THE DATE: Farm Potluck: June 24

Snap Peas, Colorful Carrots, and Thyme Flowers.

First, I want to thank our entire CSA family for being supportive and understanding as we navigated the last few weeks. The endless rain delays were bad enough, but then my sudden, surprising entry into the hospital was another. It actually took four ER visits to determine that I was not having a migraine (which I have been lucky never to have) but instead, I had suffered a carotid artery tear.

I’ve known Regina Grubb a long time. She was a CSA member many years ago, and teaches horticulture at Auburn Mountainview High School. She was first to jump in and help with watering the greenhouse starts and keeping the farmers market space alive.

We still don’t understand how it happened, as it’s usually the result of a severe neck trauma. I had been working hard the days before, but nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing hurt. I just spent an entire night with a terrible headache and woke up with a numb tongue. Luckily it wasn’t a stroke or an aneurism. But it was exhausting, and I need to go easy for a while to make sure my artery heals.

When I came home from the hospital, I was on orders not to do any heavy work. But I was pretty weak anyway and needed a lot of rest. Trinity (in the back) has been working for us since April. Her entire family volunteered to plant onions last week. It was an incredible gift.

What is truly amazing is the amount of help that we’ve received. We were so behind in our planting schedule because of the rain, it was difficult not to feel stressed while useless. But Regina Grubb (long-time friend and high school horticulturist extraordinaire), Chris Sechrist (the ambitious young farmer we are mentoring), and Trinity (our high-school wonder-employee) all stepped up and went above and beyond to get crops planted, watered, and weeded, as well as doing all the heavy lifting I’m not allowed to do right now.

Chris started farming a few years ago, but now he’s renting two acres of our farm and we’re mentoring him. It’s a great relationship, and he has been a huge help while I’ve been in the hospital and recovering.

Things are looking really good for harvest in two weeks. We’ll have a lot of different crops ready, and serious abundance. All the local farms are still behind, as are we. CSA programs are starting late. Farmers market tables are meager. But summer is coming. We are betting that this year is like the last few years, where we have an extended fall. We still have time to plant all of our winter crops, and we’ll be planting extra, to push the CSA out a few extra weeks into January. I still plan on delivering our 40 weeks of produce, even if we’re hit and miss for a while.

Volunteer Poppies from the U-Pick flower garden two years ago.

We hope to have all of our food crops planted this week, and then we’ll be able to get to work on the U-Pick flower garden. There’s still lots of time for blooms, so don’t despair.

Thank you so much for your patience while we’ve been weathering this tricky year. We wouldn’t be here without you.

CSA Weeks 5 & 6

Spring Onions, Pea Shoots, Spinach, Green Garlic, Salad Turnips, and Parsnips.

LAST WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Parsnips or Salad Turnips
• Spring Onions
• Rapini 
• Spring Onions
• Green Garlic
• Pea Shoots

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Carrots, Beets, Sugar Snap Peas, Napa Cabbage, Lettuce

We have finally caught up with the weather nightmare that has been spring. We have used up all of the overwintered crops, except onions and pea shoots, and all of the greenhouse crops that were meant to tide us over until the outdoor planted crops were ready.

All the rain this spring has put our planting schedule 5-6 weeks behind when we’ve planted the last two years.

But remember, we haven’t been able to plant anything this spring, until this week. That’s six weeks later than last year. And because nothing was planted outside to begin when the greenhouse crops finish up, there’s nothing to harvest.

I dread telling CSA members this, because you paid ahead for your produce. And we really have done all that we can. But the good news is that it’s temporary. Just this week, we were able to get everything planted up to our current planting schedule, plus a few things, “just in case”.

We start out our season with Spring Onions, leftovers from last year’s onion crop that were missed.

We will have no CSA pickups this week (May 13-16) and no pickups next week (May 20-23). The following week, however, we will have many new and exciting things to start harvesting, and hopefully, we won’t have to stop again until January. We’ve replanted greenhouses, and we have a ton of things planted outside. I’m very hopeful that we can turn this season around.

Jackie may be small, but he’s a brave family man, looking over his harem and finding them tidbits to eat.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. We will continue planting, and get things cleaned up for our first farm potluck on May 27. Mark your calendars!

We can’t work up ground for planting when there is water standing in the field. And so we wait.

CSA Weeks 3 & 4

Parsnips, Rapini (Broccoli Raab), Spring Onions, Pea Shoots, Green Garlic, Mixed Cooking Greens, and U-Pick Tulips and Daffodils.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Parsnips
• Mixed Bag of  Kale and Beet Greens
• Rapini 
• Spring Onions
• Green Garlic
• Pea Shoots

• U-Pick Tulips and Daffodils!

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Radishes, Arugula, Cilantro, Spinach

By now it shouldn’t be a surprise that this has been the wettest, coldest spring in our entire farming career. It’s well documented now. We have surpassed our frustration point at not being able to work ground for planting.

Mixed tulips from the U-Pick rows. CSA families only!

Our spring season always starts out a bit slow, with whatever perennial crops have survived through the winter. Everything that we have fed you with, up to this point, was planted last year.

The next crops to harvest (and we did start picking them for market last week) come from the greenhouses. Back in February, we planted radishes, turnips, arugula, spinach, and carrots in all of our hoop houses. They’ve taken much longer than normal to produce a crop, even under cover. It’s been cold. Next week, there will be enough of many of those things to harvest for CSA families as well.

Our Cooking Greens bags are made of frilly kales and beet greens.

But hoop houses are limited to their space, and since we haven’t been able to plant anything outside yet, I’m afraid that we’re going to have a harvest gap. In the past, we’ve been able to transition through these spring harvest stages more-or-less in a seamless way. But it’s been a struggle to get just six items to harvest every week. Next week is looking good, but the following week, I’m not so sure. We’ll have spinach and turnips, and onions and garlic. Is that worth the drive to the farm?

I’m not without hope. Eventually, the weather will turn, and we’ll get more than one day of consecutive dry weather that will allow us to work up seedbeds and plant. There are many steps involved, and much of the farm is still covered by standing water. People like to exaggerate about weather, it’s human nature. But believe me: this is not good.

Rapini, also known as Broccoli Raab, consists of the flower buds and tender leaves of the overwintered turnip plants. They’re juicy and tender, and sweet, with a touch of bitterness.

So I’m warning you now that we may have to skip a week or two of CSA harvest in the weeks to come. However, we have lots of baby plants in the greenhouse, just waiting to planted outside. Because when you can’t plant outside, you get things started inside. In the long run, a little break from harvesting would let us get a lot of planting done, if the weather were on our side.

It may turn out to be a greens and broccoli year. Light on the tomatoes and squash. But we will have food. We just need a few dry days.

GOOD NEWS: The hens are laying well now! We’re going to finish out last year’s egg subscriptions for four weeks, and in mid-May, we’ll open up egg subscriptions to all CSA members, based on how many eggs we predict the hens will keep laying. So, if you had an egg subscription last year, pick up your eggs for four weeks.

CSA Week 2

Green Garlic, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Rapini (a.k.a. Broccoli Raab), Pea Shoots, Spring Onions, and tender Mixed Kales.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Purple Sprouting Broccoli
• Mixed Bag of  Kale
Rapini 
• Spring Onions
Green Garlic
• Pea Shoots

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Radishes, Arugula, Cilantro, Turnips

Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Eat it all: stems, leaves, and florets.

The back half of the farm is still flooded, and next door is even wetter.  Basically, we have inherited a duck sanctuary. And there was even a Great Blue Heron feeding the other day, standing stolidly in the new lake.

Tiny Rapini buds with a twisty pea shoot tendril.

Thankfully, we have many greenhouses, and we HAVE planted in all of them. Carrots and beets were planted in February. Turnips and radishes in early March. Arugula and a few rows of potatoes in late March. And we just filled one with pea transplants last week. We’re doing the best that we can in this wet spring. Luckily, we planted a lot of extras last summer and fall, because that’s were everything we’re harvesting is coming from right now.

In our downsizing process, one of our goals was to have more family time. I’m hoping for a “weekend” every few weeks. Time to go camping in the sunny part of the year. And since our farmers market is on Sunday, our weekend will be Wednesday and Thursday. And that change meant switching the beginning and end of the CSA week. Now the CSA begins on Saturday and ends with Tuesday pickup and delivery. I’m adjusting to getting the blog posts done on weekends instead of mid-week, so I apologize for missing the first one!

All the colors of kale.

We know that the CSA allotment seems small now, but remember that there will be more as the weeks progress. Summer will bring a lot of different items, and a lot of choices. Have patience, and happy spring!

EGG UPDATE: We’re happy to report that at long last, the hens are feeling like spring and have begun to increase their egg production. I’ll be in touch with anyone who had an egg subscription last year, which we were unable to complete. They will get first priority on egg shares this year. Once those families have been accommodated, we will open egg subscriptions to other CSA families.

 

Eating the World

Big changes are scary, but they are also exciting. For years, almost decades, we have focused on growing our business. Growing the farm, to make just a little more money. Every winter, we would say, “If we could just get into one more market…” But the reality is that growth is expensive. The bigger we were, the more we wanted to produce, and the more help we needed. And farm labor is expensive, especially in relation to the price people are willing to pay for their food. That realization was ultimately the reason I started thinking about downsizing. Shrinking the farm. Concentrating on what was important. 

My desk is covered in seed catalogs. I've taken care of ordering seeds for the staple crops, but now the fun begins. 10 kinds of Solanum berries, 5 kinds of Andean tubers, purple Napa cabbage, green daikon radish. There are so many things to eat!

My desk is covered in seed catalogs. I’ve taken care of ordering seeds for the staple crops, but now the fun begins. 10 kinds of Solanum berries, 5 kinds of Andean tubers, purple Napa cabbage, green daikon radish. There are so many things to eat!

One of the things I really missed in the scale up was all the variety that I was able to grow in the old days. Growth and efficiency mean eliminating things that don’t sell as well or aren’t as profitable, so we lost a lot of our old diversity and excitement. Now that I’m focusing more on variety, I’ve been exploring some obscure seed catalogs and websites, and I’ve been struck by the realization that although there are 620 families of plants, nearly 99% of our food plants come from just a handful of them.

I’ll focus on the vegetable families for now:

Grasses, Poaceae or Gramineae: This includes grains, like corn, wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, and millet. Worldwide, rice, wheat, and corn account for half of all the calories eaten by humans, and have done so for centuries. This family also includes sugarcane, lemongrass, and bamboo, eaten as tender shoots.

That said, although grass is edible by humans, the human stomach hasn’t evolved to digest that much cellulose, and our teeth haven’t evolved for that much abrasive chewing. Grass is high in silica, and grazing animals have teeth that are adapted to continually grow and replace worn down surfaces. Bellyaches, gas, and malnutrition would be the result from lots of grass-eating.

Legumes, Fabaceae: This family includes, peas, beans, soybeans, garbanzos, lentils, peanuts, carob, mesquite, and tamarind, as well as clover, alfalfa, and licorice. They are very high in protein, and when eaten with a grain, they work together to form all the amino acids necessary as a complete protein food. Most, if not all, primitive cultures figured this out and made some combination their staple diet. Think of rice and beans, corn and beans, barley and peas, soybeans and rice. You get the idea. I was surprised to discover that even the desert southwest had(s) legumes as part of their diet: Tepary Beans and Mesquite Beans.

The bean family also includes Locust trees, from which we get locust bean gum, an emulsifier and ice-cream enhancer. 

Sunflowers, Asteraceae or Compositae: This group includes lettuce, chicory—endive, escarole, and radicchio, artichokes, jerusalem artichokes, salsify, and chamomile.

Nightshades, Solanaceae: While there are toxic members of this family (most likely the reason for the Europeans temporary refusal to eat tomatoes brought back from the Americas by explorers), there are many edible family members. This family includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, ground cherries, and potatoes (not including sweet potatoes).

While most edible nightshades tend to be from warmer climates, we do host a few wild members of this family, including Hairy Nightshade, Black Nightshade, and the dreaded Deadly Nightshade, used as both a poison and a heart medicine in ancient times.

Squashes and Melons, Cucurbitaceae: It’s interesting to note that squashes are New World plants, and melons and cucumbers are old world plants. The New World (American) members of the family are all the hard squashes—delicata, butternut, pumpkins, and some gourds. Squashes also include zucchini and pattypans, which are eaten in their immature stage. If left to mature on the plant they become a hard-shelled squash similar to a pumpkin, though not as tasty. The Old World (European and Asian) members include cucumbers, melons, luffa, bitter melon, and the adorable Cucamelon.

Crucifers, Brassicaceae: This is a huge, varied, highly nutritious family! It also has two large main groups which fall into European and Asian eating patterns. The Asian group, Brassica rapa, includes napa cabbage, bok choy, turnips, radishes, mustard greens, mustard seed, canola, and arugula—it’s a huge family. The European group, Brassica oleracea, includes round cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, rutabagas, kale, collard greens. Horseradish, Alyssum, and countless others are in other subgroups of the Brassica family. You can recognize them by their simple, cross-shaped flowers, which is where the family gets the name “Crucifer”.

Crucifers are perfectly suited to our climate, preferring relatively even temperatures, not too much heat, and plenty of moisture. As a result, we host a number of weeds that are brassicas, including Shepherd’s Purse, Pennycress, and Watercress. 

Onions, Amaryllidaceae: This is a small, but pungent family, which includes onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives. We have no wild members of this family here, but ramps are a wild leek common to the east coast of north america. Also in this family are tulips, which are edible— the Dutch survived on tulip bulbs through a famine in the 1700s.

Carrot and Parsley, Apiaceae: Another huge and varied family of aromatic plants! This one claims carrots, celery, parsnips, fennel, parsley, cilantro/coriander, dill, cumin, caraway, chervil, lovage, angelica, and anise. It’s a family quite at home in the northwest, so we have weedy members here, like Queen Anne’s lace, and poison hemlock.

Goosefoots (Beets), Chenopodiaceae: This family includes beets, chard, and spinach. Recently amaranth and quinoa were added to this family as well. These guys love it here, and our most abundant weeds are redroot pigweed (amaranth) and lambsquarter (quinoa). Both are edible and high in protein, not bad while eaten young, and the seeds are just as edible as their famous cousins.

There are other plant families, from which we get just one or two foods. Rhubarb, sorrel, and buckwheat come from the Buckwheat, Polygonaceae, family. Basil, mint, rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano, thyme, and lavender come from the Mint, Mentha, family. Sweet potatoes come from the Morning Glory, Convolvulaceae, family. Asparagus is in it’s own family, Asparagaceae. Okra is in the Mallow, Malvaceae family, with hollyhocks, hibiscus, and the Caribbean favorite, Sorelle.

There are also obscure families from which diverse ethnic groups obtain food. Prickly Pear Cactus paddles (Nopales). Specialized tubers from the Andes, like Oca, Yacon, and Mashua, and even some Dahlias.

I’m looking forward to exploring ALL of these vegetable families this year.